Ellen Ripley’s Path to Avoiding Friendships because of Past Hurt Aug08

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Ellen Ripley’s Path to Avoiding Friendships because of Past Hurt

"ripley" | Art by Spiritius. Used with permission.

Bishop looks like any other member of the Sulaco, a ship carrying space marines on a mission to investigate a colonized planet that hasn’t made contact lately. But when a thick white liquid spills from a wound on his hand, Bishop reveals himself to be an android. The others aboard the ship already know about his identity, but once Ellen Ripley discovers it, she doesn’t mince words: Bishop is not welcome anywhere near her.

Ripley’s hostility is influenced by the events of the previous film, Alien, where she was betrayed by the android aboard her old ship. She’s only recently awoken from hypersleep, the only survivor of an alien attack on her crew. The events of Alien are fresh in Ripley’s mind—as she accompanies the marines to the same planet where her crew took on the alien lifeform. She won’t make the same mistake and let an android betray her again.

Ripley’s hostility is influenced by past betrayal.

Ripley’s response makes sense. We learn the principle of cause and effect from a very young age; it keeps us safe and helps us learn. Despite Bishop’s insistence that he is programmed specifically to keep humans from harm and explanation that Ash’s older model was “twitchy,” Ripley keeps her guard up around the android, at one point even asking a marine to hold him at gunpoint. To her, humans may run the spectrum of good to bad, but all androids are potential enemies.

But Ripley has it all wrong. There is a betrayer among the crew again this time, but it’s not Bishop. Instead, it’s a human who betrays them. Bishop, on the other hand, is a hero, putting himself in great danger to save the others. He even rescues Newt, the little girl that Ripley has guarded so closely, when he could have greater concerns—like how to find the other half of his body that a queen alien just ripped away.

Even though Bishop demonstrates that he’s unlike Ash, Ripley can’t accept him for who he is at first. She’s worried about being hurt, both emotionally and physically, and treats Bishop with disdain to avoid the potential of pain. Ripley would rather be dismissive of Bishop than risk being vulnerable.

I experience similar trepidation when facing new, potential relationships. I’m not really great at making friends (I get the feeling that Ripley is probably the same way)—it’s hard work, and worst of all, I struggle with bitterness when friendships don’t go the way I would like… especially when they fall apart. So I consistently make the decision not to invest in potential friends. I don’t respond to their overtures of intimacy. I stay friendly, but I don’t make the effort to advance relationships from acquaintance to friend. Recalling the pain of broken relationships and past hurts, I act on a resolve that says it’s not worth it.

Recalling the pain of broken relationships and past hurts, I act on a resolve that says it’s not worth it.

Recently, though, I was caught off guard by a couple that made repeated efforts to spend time with my wife and me. Despite our guardedness, we found ourselves going out with the pair and spending time together. While the end result is indeterminable, the journey has been a joy and wholly unlike what I expected, not at all like past experiences with would-be friends. Unable to hide behind hurt anymore, I’ve been forced into the realization that maybe not all people and relationships are the same.

There’s a scene near the end of Aliens where Ripley, having risked her life to save Newt, returns to the landing pad expecting to see her escape craft there, but it’s missing. She screams Bishop’s name, believing that he’s left without them, but moments later, he flies in to pick them up, having moved away from the platform momentarily due to its instability. After making it safely aboard, Ripley tells Bishop, “You did okay.” I think that is the moment when Ripley finally decides to abandon her fear and consider her hostility misplaced. For her and for me, the risk is sometimes great, but moments of love, faith, and kindness are the rewards that give us the strength to face our monsters, showing us that though the past can teach us about what people (and androids) can do, it doesn’t show us how every story ends.

Charles Sadnick

Charles Sadnick

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Converted from the moment he first heard Han Solo reply, “I know,” Charles resisted his nerdy urges until Hayao Miyazaki, Spike Spiegel, and Evangelion Unit-01 forced him to confront the truth of his inner geekery. Baptized into otakudom, Charles masks himself in the not-so-secret identity of TWWK as he blogs endlessly about anime and faith.

He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.

A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.
Charles Sadnick